Last week we published an interview a day from our Market Research Heroes as part of Market Research Hero Week. Annie Pettit, Ray Poynter, Tom Ewing, Lenny Murphy and Kristin Luck were identified as key voices in our industry, all juggling at least 4 roles in their careers covering advisors to research programs, being authors, writing well-read industry blogs, starting groups supporting women in research and running platforms showcasing some of the best speakers and content us researchers could have access to.

As a young researcher starting out in this industry, David Wiszniowski (who had interviewed each MRXHero) wanted to know what our they thought about keeping up with all the content we researchers have access to every day and ‘making it’. Here’s what they had to say to David; advice which is relevant to all young researchers starting out.

David: Being that I am a student, and also an intern, are there any words of wisdom that you would give to those just starting out in MR?

Annie’s response: Most people starting out in market research have no market research training. As such, you are already ahead of the crowd. Given that, be wary of “We’ve always done it this way.” From day 1, keep a list of the things that make no sense to you and need to be changed/fixed. Then, when you have more experience, go through that list and pick out the things that really can or should be changed. Bring those suggestions to the right person and make it happen. It’s always interesting to see the difference between suggestions on Day 1 and suggestions on Day 300. At Day 300, you know what can and can’t be done, or why things are the way they are. Day 1 is full of eagerness, Day 300 is full of understanding.

Kristin’s response: The most important thing you can do is try a bunch of different things and figure out what fits. It’s really important to pay attention to what you’re good at, and what you enjoy doing. The goal is to get to a point in your career where you do 80% of what you love and 20% of what you don’t love, so try to hone in on that early.

Lenny’s response: Try and find joy in whatever it is in what you’re doing. Ultimately our job is to help people, regardless of whether we’re working in different areas of research. We’re providing information that should be helping people’s lives be better. If you’re not up for helping people, this is not the right industry for you.

Ray’s response: Avoid jobs and roles where you do the same thing over and over again – such as large trackers, in the early years you need variety and you need the chance to meet research users.

Tom’s response: I think things are quite different now because the whole job market is more precarious on the one hand, but there’s also a higher level of professionalism coming in, with courses specifically aimed at researchers. I had the opportunity to present to a class of research students in Spain last year and they asked better and tougher questions than anything I got at a conference. Older researchers – at least the good ones – like questions and appreciate challenges, so don’t ever be afraid to ask them. Other advice? Keep an eye on the hot areas outside research and own what you know about.

David: Personally, even though I’ve taken a program specifically geared towards market research, I still don’t know all of the main players in the industry. With conferences, linked in profiles, more conferences, papers, webinars, talks, presentations, blogs, green books, vines and hashtags I find that there is a lot to take in. In fact, I still feel as if I’m playing catch-up. What sort of advice can you offer as to how to make sense of it all for someone who is new to the industry? Being that I’m still a novice, how important is it for me to keep tabs on the innovations being made in MR?

Annie’s response: You are not alone. It is impossible to stay on top of everything so don’t even try. Find a few things that you like, and only pay attention to those. Don’t feel that you must read/see/contribute to everything. If something from somewhere else is really that amazing, it will eventually make its way to where you are. And make sure that you leave in some “spare” time to just lay on the grass and gaze at the clouds.

Kristin’s response: Keep up on Greenbook and Research World. Research Live and DRNO have daily emails – as does RBDR. Some days I read a lot of industry news and some days I don’t, but I always scan it and try to see what’s going on. MR is a big industry, but also very insular. Once you spend a year in the industry you’ll know who the thought leaders are. Even if you’re not in a point in your career where you can go to conferences, just check out who’s presenting at conferences and what topics are being presented on – you’ll get a feel for who and what’s hot.

Lenny’s response: First, don’t get overwhelmed, think about how you can utilize tools to streamline that process, ie, twitter. Make time to check out the key news and thought leadership platforms in the workplace. If you’re not looking at, and of course Greenbook everyday than you’re missing out. Then, just develop your own model on how to curate that content. Find a way to manage the inflow of information. Pay attention to the influencers, and look who they’re following.

Ray’s response: I think that the easiest way of getting into the flow would be follow the #MRX tag via Twitter, click on the links, attend some of the webinars, and then talk about what you hear/see with your colleagues.

Tom’s response: I don’t pay structured attention to most of it – if I did I would have no time to find out about the world beyond research. You have to find the modes you’re comfortable in – I happen to like Twitter and I end up going to conferences, but other people find more value in LinkedIn, which I can’t stand! There are a lot of monthly drinks for designers, psychologists, behavioural economists, etc. around the world, which often attract younger people with fewer commitments.
For a newcomer – find people in your “generation” who are doing interesting work. Check out Jeff Henning’s Top 10 post on Greenbook for a sense of what’s getting the Twitter crowd interested. Investigate award winners and read their case studies. But honestly what you bring to the industry from outside is more important than the things you pick up inside – you’ll have plenty of time to absorb the biases and structural errors we no longer notice.

We hope new researchers finding themselves in a similar boat to David have benefitted from this advice. Check out the entire #MRXHero interview series here and contact us to nominate your own #MRXHero!